Celebrating Our Progress
Around this time last year, I was finishing up a special report on the status of African Americans in the sciences, for which I had won an Education Writer’s Association Fellowship. One morning, while reporting the story, I remember strolling through the halls of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s main administrative building and coming across a bulletin board that featured highlights in the life of a celebrated Black alumnae. That person was Dr. Shirley Jackson.From that moment on, I was curious to know more about this dynamic sister who had blazed a trail that so few women, let alone Black women, had had an opportunity to even consider.I never did get to interview Dr. Jackson for the science series, but I am delighted to be able to feature her on the cover of this edition (see cover story, pg. 26). The out-going head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s most recent achievement — being named the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute — is just one in a long list of firsts that have occurred in her life. But the appointment marks a significant milestone in the history of African Americans — and more specifically Black women — within the academy. Jackson is the first Black woman to head a research institution, an achievement that represents a tremendous breakthrough and is cause for celebration throughout higher education.Jackson’s appointment having been made during a period when so much is being done to limit African American’s access to the upper echelons of higher education makes it all the more momentous. It also helps to counter the chilling notion that the quickest route to the top for Black scholars is to keep one’s Black interests to oneself. Jackson’s confidence and forthrightness about the need for greater inclusion of underrepresented people of color within higher education suggest that she is not likely to shy away from advocacy on this issue in her new role.As Part II of our special report on Recruitment and Retention, this edition also features a close-up view of the Ph.D. Project. This a four-year-old program, that has already begun to bear fruit, offers a compelling new model for the recruitment of Black doctoral candidates toward the goal of increasing the numbers of underrepresented faculty of color (see Corporate Raiding, pg. 30).We also invite you to catch up on the latest developments in Internet2, which promises to transform not only cyberspace as we have come to know it, but the way higher education uses this important informational tool. The story, by Jamilah Evelyn, (see pg. 42) underscores how imperative it is for African Americans and historically Black institutions to play a role as the planning stages of this history-making project continue to unfold.And finally, the edition you are reading is the first published during Black Issues’ 15th Anniversary year. We invite you to join us, in the coming months, as we look back over the course of our eventful history and celebrate the advancements that have been made both in higher education and at our parent company — Cox, Matthews & Associates. As the nation’s only semi-monthly publication that has dedicated 15 years to covering the news that matters to professionals like you, we also urge you to invite your friends and colleagues to join our family of subscribers. I am sure they have no idea what they’re missing.
Cheryl D. FieldsExecutive Editor
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